Editorial: UCAFE food closet initiative provides healthy options for all UConn students

Despite the fact that the Union is known to many as a hub of food, the focus on healthy groceries is still a welcome alternative to the ever-popular pizza and burritos of the Union Street Market. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Many students on campus find themselves spoiled with choices when it comes to food. After all, there are the cafes around campus, the dining halls, Storrs Center, the Union and many other options in the area. What people don’t consider, though, is that not all students have access to all of these options. Moreover, many are options suspect in terms of nutrition at best. While we have plenty of choice, it can be difficult or even impossible to make the “right” choice.

For example, the dining halls are always well-stocked with food. Surrounding the main part of campus, they are a good option for many students. However, students with dietary restrictions may find themselves lacking suitable options depending on whichever meals are served that day. The situation is even worse for off-campus students, who may not have reasonable access to the dining halls. Even for students with access to dining halls, it can be inconvenient that they are all pushed to the edges of campus. This leaves many students without dining halls as an option for lunch.

This isn’t to say that there are some fundamental issues with the current food distribution model at the University of Connecticut. In fact, UConn is much more generous with its meal plans than most other universities, at least at the Storrs campus. However, food insecurity is still a relevant issue on campus. Healthy, varied options just aren’t always available for all students.

This is why recent measures taken by the organization UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE) are commendable. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving break, they demoed their pop-up food closet in the Student Union. This event distributed groceries to anyone affiliated with UConn who stopped by, with the specific goal of providing healthy, nutritious options for the public. Despite the fact that the Union is known to many as a hub of food, the focus on healthy groceries is still a welcome alternative to the ever-popular pizza and burritos of the Union Street Market.

Just as important as the actual handing out of groceries, UCAFE also collected data on food insecurity on campus throughout the event. Especially on such an underreported topic, this data collection could prove to be very valuable for both the initiative and UConn as a whole. Hopefully, the two are able to work together to study food access on campus and develop new methods of distribution to students, staff and faculty alike.

As UCAFE co-founder Abhishek Gupta states, food is “the last thing you think about at the end of the day.” Especially in the lead up to exams, stress can cause students to forgo basic needs like healthy food. This is ironic, though, as times of high stress are those where it is most important to stay physically and mentally fit. It is important that efforts like this are pursued to ensure that such things are not completely cast aside by the UConn public